Net, net, you can now pay $1000 to jump to the front and get a guaranteed entry for pretty much most of the Ironman races. Prior to the IM Access program you had to 1. turn-up at the race the year before, volunteer and enter after the race; 2. Having entered for 1-year, the day before the race you could show up and enter for the next year; 3. Enter online if the race didn't fill up before that; 4. You could pay an additional $750 and enter via the community fund, the $750 was tax deductable for US Residents and went to a local charity; 5. If you met the qualifying(I did) you could pay $4,500 for races that had an Ironman Executive Challenge(IMXC). Entry for IM races is upward of $550.
Actually, from my perspective Ironman Access is good. It saves me entering via IMXC and thus saves me about $2500. It also saves many people from having to go races the year before and volunteer, which for anyone who isn't local to an IM race, would likely cost much more than $1000.
However, the IM Access program represents everything that is bad about the direction IM races are headed. The races are over commercial, over promoted and while the brand has become a dream for many, they don't represent good value. Does your race need all those barriers dressed in advertizers livery? Do you really need that expo that forces you to walk from place to place to pickup things? The Ironman Access program amongst it's benefits lists access to the VIP tent, where from my IMXC experience last year I know they have free food and drink etc. Thats paid for how? There are so many things that go on at Ironman events that neither contribute to the safety of the race, or the real race needs, you've have to wonder where the money comes from to pay for them. There are a huge band of freeloaders who show up at races as well paid for on whose $?
The other aspect of Ironman races that has long been part of paying your "dues", is volunteering. You can spend 20-hours volunteering at a long distance event. I just put in 16-hours at Ironman 70.3 Austin, I don't regret that. It's alway been the case that without the volunteers there would be no race. But volunteers don't really get a break from the WTC for doing this. Yes, they get to sign-up in person, onsite the day AFTER the race. But that means you have to stay another night at the race site just to register the next morning. Sure most people will anyway. Volunteers have always been the backbone of Ironman and long distance racing. You can run a safe short course race with minimal help. I've done it with as little as 32-people. More doesn't always mean better.
An Ironman race though needs hundreds. The recent Ironman 70.3 needed 100 for the bike course alone; I had 5 great volunteers just to get people on the buses to the start. I must admit, I'm even starting to look at the split transition now as a cynical money making exercise just so they could have a big indoor expo center... rather than to have a better race.
So, if the WTC were going to introduce a new program, it should have been to encourage, honor and payback the volunteers. Get 2x IM branded race volunteer credits per year and you get free entry to the IM Access program. Now that would make sense.
So, in light of yesterdays announcement, until they withdraw or modify the program to favor volunteers, I'm out. I'm not going to travel to anymore WTC races to volunteer; I'm not going to enter any more of their races. So that means NO GALVESTON 2011 for me, which personally despite this years problems for me, was a great fun w/e.
There are a limited number of ironman-distance races that are not IM branded. We have three things to do.
- Enter those non-IM races, they are often open until just before the race so can always use extra participants. The more non-IM races we enter, the better quality those races will become, although many are already as good as an IM race already, they just don't have the cache and waste money on non-essential race items.
- Don't volunteer for IM branded races, get entry via the community fund(or in my my case the Executive Challenge) or the IM Access program.
- Complain about IM access, point out the waste, unnecessary marketing and all the other items that the WTC spend money on which ultimately don't improve your race but do line their pockets and make races harder to get into.
- If you do non-IM branded races, tell people about them and spread the word!
Next year I'm definitely heading back to Wildflower longcourse and this time will hopefully get some decent race pictures. I didn't start blogging or this journal until January 2004, so for the record here I am finishing in 2003. Sigh...